Samoa Victim Support Group officially opens American Samoa branch in Leone
The Samoa Victim Support Group American Samoa (SVSG-AS), a non-profit organization, originating from independent Samoa, officially opened their local office on Monday, in Lepuapua, Leone.
SVSG has helped thousands of victims of crime in Samoa.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupe Soliai Sailele Malielegaoi gave the keynote address and said that a request was made from American Samoa last year August to have a local branch of the SVSG, offering the same services as the office in Samoa, and the local office would offer assistance to any victim of abuse, especially Samoa nationals.
He said the local officers, which consist of the president, vice president, treasurer and secretary were in Samoa in March for a first hand overview of how the SVSG operates in Samoa.
“They came to try and get the feel of how case work is done with the SVSG office in Samoa”, said the Prime Minister. He added that the local officers also got to meet with one of the main supporters of the SVSG,Tuisugaletaua Aveau Sofara who is also the Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
The Prime Minister said he’s very happy to have a local branch of SVSG here, and it is another example of the alliance that American Samoa has with Samoa.
He added this will also allow American Samoa to have a close relationship with the SVSG Office in New Zealand, with another office to be opened in Australia in the near future.
The Prime Minister said the Samoa government will be handing $40,000 WST to the office in Australia to assist with the launch of that office.
He said that with the opening of this office, some will ask — why have another association to assist victims, although there are church pastors, chiefs (matai) within families, village councils, and the government police force?
“This is the same question which was asked when the SVSG was first opened in Samoa” he said, “However it’s obvious that these cannot withstand the devil’s work.”
“Our tradition and culture allows us to protect the reputations of families, however the chiefs (matai) of the families have secretly kept in-house the fathers of families who have abused their young children”, said the Prime Minister.
He added that SVSG is the only organization in Samoa that assists families whose perpetrators have been prosecuted in court and were sent to jail, because they had abused their wives and children.
The Prime Minister concluded by saying that he’s honored to be a part of the opening of the local SVSG office in the territory, and he thanked the Atofau family for their land and allowing the SVSG-AS to operate on their property.
Bishop Elia Esera Tavai, Pastor of Alofa Tunoa Ministries said SVSG-AS should understand the meaning of true love and how they can reach out to those who are without hope.
He added “let this office be a place where where those who are in need of help can come to and receive help, let the doors be opened up to those who are living in discouragement.”
Samoa Victim Support Group supporter Tuisugaletaua Sofara’s wife Mrs. Seutaatia Sofara, did the honors of cutting the ribbon to the new SVSG-AS office.
Bishop Tavai was one of several pastors from the different church organizations in Leone who attended the opening.
According to the program, Governor Togiola Tulafono was to give special remarks, and First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono was supposed to cut the ribbon for the new office, however both failed to attend.
Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, Samoa’s Minister of Women and Youth, Samoa’s US Charge de Affairs Chad Berbert, Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau, elderly members with the Territorial Aging Office Administration, chiefs and orators of Leone attended the official opening.
Lolo Letalu Moliga is the Chairman of the SVSG-AS Board, with Fesilafai Matagi as president, Manumalotaulafoga Valasi Gaisoa vice president; Lavasa Oloapu as secretary and treasurer is Tina Atofau.
Leone High School Choir and Tafuna High School Choir performed songs and dances at the opening.
The Samoa Victim Support Groups headquartered in Samoa, was established in 2005 with a mission to provide integrated, personalized, professional service to all survivors of crime. The non-profit organization was set up because of the dream of a young lawyer — Precious Chang — who is now head of the criminal division with the Attorney General’s office of the Government of Samoa.
Chang identified the difficulties faced by victims who do not have support from family members, and also realized there was no place of refuge and support for the victims.
The mission of the SVSG-AS is set up to care, support, and help victims of crimes, and are extending their reach to embrace victims in any area of need, whether it be victims of domestic violence, harassment in the work place, victims of poverty, or other situations.